Coalition wants Arkansas voters to decide on minimum wage hike

      LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- Raising minimum wage in Arkansasis back in the public eye once again, and rather than taking the issue tolegislators, the group heading the effort wants Arkansas voters todecide.

      The last time thatminimum wage went up in Arkansas was in 2006 when then Governor Mike Huckabeecalled a special session. The hourly rate went from $5.15 to $6.25, where itremains today.

      After severalunsuccessful tries to have new legislation passed, the Give Arkansas a Raise Nowcoalition wants to take the matter to voters.

      Documentation of aninitiated act is heading to the attorney general's office to help Arkansans onminimum wage get a boost.

      "Really who we wantsupport from is we want support from those who will go to the ballot box inNovember," said Stephen Copely, chair of the coalition. "Those are ordinaryfolks that will have to sign petitions, and then go vote for it."

      If the wording is approvedby the attorney general, it's a measure that will need more than 62,000signatures by July, before it can make it on the November ballot.

      A similar proposal wentbefore a house committee in the 2013 legislative session, but died quickly fromlack of support. Channel Seven spoke with Public Health, Welfare and LaborCommittee Chairman Andy Mayberry (R) Tuesday; he said there was concern of howit would impact businesses and unemployment.

      GARN looks at itsproposal as a way to improve the quality of life.

      "If they're getting$15,000 a year, and you start doing that math. $5,600 a year for groceries, or$5,200. $3,600 for rent, and all of that would be minimal. Where's thepaycheck? It's gone," Copely added.

      If the wording of thisinitiated act is approved by the attorney general's office, then a petition hasto be approved by the Arkansas Secretary of State's office.

      Only after those steps,can the coalition move forward to pursue the more than 62,000 signatures needed.GARN said Tuesday is believes the effort to acquire signatures could cost about$250,000-300,000 for workers around the state.

      Currently minimum wagesits at $6.25 but if this act passes, minimum wage would move to $7.50 in 2015,$8.00 in 2016 then all the way up to $8.50 in 2017.

      It's expected this couldbecome a large topic to go along with political races in November, and Copely, thecoalition chair responded to that question.

      "In fact, what wewould do is welcome any candidate from whatever background," he said. "Anyparty, from whatever background, who wanted to sit down and visit with us aboutendorsing it or supporting it."

      By law, the attorneygeneral has 10 business days to respond to the filing, which after the holidayswill go into the 2014 year.

      The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25.